Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Not of the World

                    When we left our heavenly home to come to earth, we knew progress would come according to the plan of salvation.  Living in this world brings us many challenges, temptations, and pressures as well as giving us opportunities to grow and develop.  We all face the possibility of being influenced wrongly by the worldly society that we live in, but teenagers and young adults face particular pressures as they learn to deal with earthly challenges according to gospel principles.  We all must use our challenges to become stronger and to continue our eternal progression.  It is of eternal importance that we learn to be in the world but not of the world.

                    We all want to have friends and desire to be liked and accepted by those people who surround us.  This is not wrong, but these desires can lead us into trouble if we put acceptance by people ahead of being accepted by the Lord.  Part of living on this earth is learning to deal successfully with unrighteous influences.  It is easier to deal with these influences when we recognize them and understand the results that yielding to them can bring.

                    Influence to do certain things often comes from our peers - people around our own age and in circumstances similar to our own.  This kind of influence is often called "peer pressure."  Peer pressure can be positive or negative, depending on whether our peers are influencing us to do righteous or unrighteous things.

                    Sometimes our peers make a deliberate effort to influence our behavior, and sometimes we are influenced by our peers simply because we want to be like those we admire.  Either way, we need to consciously consider what we are being influenced to do and whether or not these are good things to do.

                    Satan has used negative peer pressure and the desire to be accepted as his tools throughout the ages.  In Old Testament times the children of Israel experienced a desire to be like other people around them.

                    In 1 Samuel 8 the children of Israel recognize that Samuel was getting old and that his sons were unrighteous leaders.   "Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
                    "And said unto him, Behold, thou are old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways:  now make us a king to judge us like all the nations" (1 Samuel 8:4-5). 

                    Samuel was not pleased with the request and inquired of the Lord what he should do.  The Lord told Samuel, "Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee:  for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
"Now therefore hearken unto their voice:  howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them" (1 Samuel 8:7, 9).

                    Samuel followed the Lord's instructions and told the people the results of having a king.  "And he said, this will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you:  He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
                    "And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
                    "And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive yards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
                    "And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards and give to his officers, and to his servants.
                    "And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
                    "He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
                    "And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day" (1 Samuel 8:11, 13-18).

                    Samuel told the people that a king would enslave their sons and their daughters and take all their property, but he was unable to persuade the people that a king was a bad idea.  "Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
                    "That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles"
(1 Samuel 8:19-20).

                    Samuel listened to the voice of the people and heard their words.  Then he went to the Lord again and was told, "… Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king…." (1 Samuel 8:22).

                    Why did the Israelites want a king in spite of all negatives involved in having one?  They wanted to "be like all the nations."                    Just as Samuel prophesied, the negative results came to the children of Israel.  Their first few kings helped them to become a strong nation, but later kings enslaved them, took all their possessions, and eventually contributed to the downfall of the entire nation.

                    What can we learn from the experience of the Israelites?  We must learn to listen when a prophet speaks; we must never reject the counsel of the Lord's servants in order to be more like everyone else.  Unrighteous influences can be powerful and can have devastating consequences.  In order for us to progress during our early sojourn, we must learn to know when we are being pressured in the wrong direction and how to resist that pressure.

                    While our peers often have great influence on how we think and act, pressures from other areas can also influence us to do wrong things.  Think about the negative influences that comes from famous movie, music, or sports personalities as well as songs, literature or advertising that entice us to commit sins.

                    While Alma was teaching the people in Zarahemla, he told them, "And now I say unto you, all you that are desirous to follow the voice of the good shepherd [become followers of Christ], come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things…." (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 5:57).

                    Alma told his followers to separate themselves from the wickedness.  How can we live in today's world and still follow Alma's counsel?  It is neither possible nor desirable for us to isolate ourselves completely from all people who believe differently that we do; however, we can still withstand the worldly pressure and have a possible influence on the people around us if we will maintain our standards and strive to live righteously.  This condition is often described as "being in the world but not of the world," meaning that even though we live in the world we do not need to accept the world's standards and beliefs.     

                    One of the best ways to increase our ability to resist worldly influences and pressures is to decide in advance how we will react to those influences:  we can prepare our resistance ahead of the actual experience.  We can also remember that God desires our success and stands ready to help us as we strive to resist the influences of the world.
Errol Bennett was the top soccer star in Tahiti when he and his wife were introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by a friend.  They recognized the truth of the gospel and decided to be baptized.  Erroll knew that as a member of the Church he would need to keep the Sabbath day holy, but all his soccer league's games were played on Sundays.

Erroll's father was upset when he heard that his son planned to be baptized into the Church because he knew that it would mean the end to his sons' successful soccer career.  He demanded:  "Have you gone mad?  You'll have to give up everything - everything you've worked for. … If you do this, I don't want to know you.  Take everything in this house that belongs to you and don't ever set foot across this door again."

Erroll was a very valuable player in the league; when the league president heard that Erroll was going to join the Church, he called the stake president to ask if Erroll could get some kind of special permission to play on Sundays.  The stake president told the league president that the decision about whether or not to play on Sundays was up to Erroll.

Erroll again spoke to his father regarding his decision to join the Church and again was rejected, but Erroll's commitment to the Church was strong.  He decided to seek counsel from the friend who had introduced him to the Church.  This friend told him about priesthood blessings, and another friend gave Erroll a blessing that promised that his problems would be resolved and his father would accept his baptism.

Erroll went to see his father the next day.  As he approached the house, he could see his father standing by the gate to the front garden.  There were tears in his eyes.  "I want you to forgive me, Erroll," he said.  "I couldn't sleep last night for thinking about it…."  Then he continued:  "You know that thousands of people will be disappointed in you.  It will mean the end of your career if you won't play on Sundays.  You know that [the league president] isn't going to change the entire [soccer] league schedule just to accommodate you.  Still, this is your decision…."

The pressure continued to come from family and friends until the day of Erroll's baptism. "I remember my feelings on that day," Brother Bennett now says…. "We had gone through a lot of pressure, and we knew what we had to do.  Yet somehow I felt I needed a final confirmation, a last indication from the Lord that all was well and that we should proceed.
"I remember going up the side of the mountain near my home where I like to jog, and privately pouring out my feelings to my Heavenly Father.  I asked for confirmation, perhaps some message that I was about to take the right step.  Halfway down the mountain on the way home, I offered the same prayer again.

"As I drew near my home, there was a car parked outside.  It belonged to Gabriel Vaianui, a member who had been [less active] for about ten years, attending church only intermittently.  Gabriel had been at the market and had overheard someone say that Erroll Bennett had decided not to join the Mormon Church after all.   He had then driven over to my home immediately to find out for himself."
Erroll recognized Brother Vaianui as the answer to his prayer and immediately asked him, "Gabriel, should I be baptized today?" Without hesitation, the answer came:  "Erroll, whatever you do, you must be baptized.  Do not turn your back on the Church."

Erroll received the counsel with gladness and said, "It was just what I needed - that little extra to give me the courage I lacked."
The baptisms took place on schedule.  Erroll had time afterwards to think about his decision.  He knew that he was not going to play soccer on Sunday.  He decided to meet with his team president the following day to withdraw from the soccer team and make an opening for another soccer player. 

                    Erroll met with his team president who asked him to "Hold off for a few days" and  "Wait until after the meeting of the league later this week
                    A few days later Erroll heard the unbelievable news.  His team president told the league officials that the Central club had decided not to play on Sundays.  The league officials called for a vote, which came back with a unanimous decision to hold all Honours Division games on weekday evenings rather than on Sundays (see Michael Otterson, "Erroll Bennett, Tahitian Soccer Star:  His Courage Changed the Rules," Ensign, Oct. 1982, 15-17).

Erroll was in a very difficult position, but he found the necessary courage to resist all the pressure and be baptized.  We can all do the same things that Erroll did in making his decision.  He went to his priesthood leaders and asked for counsel.  He received a priesthood blessing.  He prayed.  He stayed in tune with the Holy Ghost and was able to recognize his answer when it came.

The end result for Erroll was a good one, but Erroll made his decision to be baptized without knowing what would happen.  He did the right thing and let the consequences fall where they may.  Making the right eternal decision will not always make the earthly situation turn out the way we desire.

                    Life will not be easy as we face worldly influences, and we may experience feelings of loneliness and rejection.  Some of these feelings may be eased by exerting "positive peer pressure" and influencing our family and friends to choose the right.
                    The Apostle Paul wrote to his friend Timothy, "… be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12).  We can be "examples of the believers" by setting good examples and by helping others to live the Lord's standards as demonstrated in the following story.

                    "I was one of four LDS students among 1,055 in our high school and we found the only way to avoid Friday night loneliness was to provide a fun alternative to the drinking and carrying on of many of our fellow students.
"We invited friends to come to our house to make root beer and doughnuts from scratch, as well as pizza, sweet rolls and candy.  We'd play games, both indoors and out, dance, sing and even had pie-eating and pyramid-building contests.
"We found lots of our friends and their friends enjoyed this alternative `fun' and we appreciated the opportunity to set a good example and be subtle missionaries" (Leslie E. Hartsock, in "How to Keep Standards Despite Temptations," Church News, 30 Jan. 1982, 15).

We must be good examples at all times because we never know when someone is watching us as shown in this story.   "It had been a great year for me, and now my high school years were coming to an end.  I was standing in a large group of noisy, excited [students] signing yearbooks when a girl I didn't know asked me if she could sign my book.  I thought it was a little unusual, but I … handed [the book] over.  She gave me a big smile and hurried off to a desk in one of the classrooms.
"That night as I was looking through my yearbook and smiling at all the things my friends had written, I came to a small paragraph that began, `You don't know me, but I have been watching you all year.'
"I was shocked.  I read that sentence over and over.  I hadn't been living my life as if someone might be watching me.  I had only been thinking of what a good time I was having.  I read on.  This girl … also wrote that she had noticed how active I was in seminary and that she was determined to be just like me.
"While I was proud she had chosen me to admire, what I mostly felt at that moment was a profound sense of relief that I had not unknowingly led her down the wrong path by my actions….
"I never saw that girl again.  But I have always remembered the moment she changed my life by asking to sign my yearbook.  I have tried since that day to live each minute as though someone is watching - because someone usually is" (Kaye Garner, "Just Like Me?" New Era, Oct. 1995, 9).

Early in his service to the Lord, the Prophet Joseph Smith gave in to Martin Harris's repeated requests to borrow 116 pages of the translation of the Book of Mormon.  The Lord had instructed Joseph not to give these pages to Martin Harris, but Joseph continued to ask the Lord until He finally consented.  The pages were subsequently lost. 

The Lord was not pleased with Joseph for allowing himself to be influenced by other people instead of listening to the Lord.  "Behold, you have been entrusted with these things, but how strict were your commandments; and remember also the promises which were made to you, if you did not transgress them.
"And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men.
"For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God.  Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words --
"Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble" (Doctrine and Covenants 3:5-8).

                    We are foolish when we "fear" men more than God.  I know that pleasing God is far more important than pleasing other people because pleasing God will bring eternal rewards even though we may lose family, friends, or wealth.  We must be in the world but not of the world and set good examples for all the people around us.


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